Strong Medicine

Olivia Gates
October 2005, Series Fiction
Sil Bombshell #63, $4.99, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373513771
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

Olivia Gates has a winner in Strong Medicine. It may have arrived late on the list of AAR books to review, but I was glad it did, for I got to read this terrific action thriller.

Dr. Calista St. James is tending to villagers in Sudan when her mission leader, Damian De Luna, orders her to abandon them because mercenaries are returning to the area. Drawing on the fighting skills she obtained during her intensive training, she instead rushes off to launch a sole attack, forcing Damian to call back soldiers to protect her. The attack results in the death of many of the mercenaries and buys time for the villagers to escape, but it also causes the grave wounding of Damian and the deaths of three soldiers, one of whom is Damianís girlfriend.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Global Crisis Alliance (GCA) throws Calista out of the organization and worse, has her medical license revoked. She goes on to create underground teams that dispense care to people the established medical community ignores Ė and punishment to their victimizers. One day the GCA tracks her down to tell her they recently discovered that several GCA doctors kidnapped by Russian militants and presumably killed eight years ago are actually alive. They ask her to rescue them, a mission that Calista canít turn down because one of the doctors, Jake Constantine, was the man she was in love with those many years ago.

Naturally, the GCA chooses logistician Damian to lead the soldiers that will protect Calista and her medical team. Calista has always felt a secret attraction to Damian and, in an exciting scene where he ends up injected with truth serum, she finds out that he feels something for her, too.

Strong Medicine is a terrific, action-packed story. With skirmishes between fiery couple Calista and Damian, battles with various hordes of bad guys, and intense medical drama, author Gates delivers thrills on many levels. The romance between Calista and Damian is a strong and exciting one as they move from hostility toward passion. Calista's first-person narrative also cracks me up with her snarky and frequently clueless observations on events and herself.

Calista is a formidable person, yielding deadly results from her ingenious use of medical knowledge as well as her fighting skills. She learned from the Sudan incident that she canít recklessly endanger lives to save all those in need and has practiced control ever since. Calista couldnít act on her attraction to Damian in the past, but now that they are both free and working closely together in Russia, she canít resist it anymore. But what she will do when Jake, who has literally come back from the dead, wants her still?

Damian is a high-ranking, elite soldier in the GCA. Heís imperious, autocratic, and broodingly sexy. He meets his match in Calista, pushing her hard in training while watching her shatter everyoneís records. Damian radiates hostility to Calista for what happened in Sudan, but what surprises her and readers is the real reason for his hostility.

Although Calista and Damian were exciting characters, I had problems with some of their actions. While Calista doesnít recklessly endanger other peopleís lives anymore, she still endangers her life, as she demonstrates in a scene where she takes incredible risks to reach a seriously injured person when there are other people nearby who are perfectly capable of handling the situation. While Damian begs Calista to trust him, he also withholds critical information from her Ė not something you want to do if you are building a relationship with someone. And I couldn't avoid a cringe when Gates's prose occasionally becomes quite purple.

But overall, I was enthused about the action, the romance and the characters of Calista and Damian and look forward to seeing how their story continues. When I found out that the follow up book is already out, I did something I have never done before: I had my bookstore special order it for me. I canít wait to read it when it arrives!

-- Jeanne W

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